Groups battle over booze

    Earlier this school year, a committee exploring the undergraduate student experience reccommended more events that involve alcohol to, among other reasons, improve campus life.

    The idea runs counter to several campus entities, who are still continuing efforts of drinking awareness and prevention.

    The recommendation for more sanctioned alcohol events was made to improve the undergraduate, committee member and UCSD Director of Regional Development Annamarie Bezzerides said.

    “It’s a signal from the institution that having a little fun and relaxing in a social atmosphere is part of college life,” she said. “It was also determined that, by having a strict ‘no alcohol’ policy, we risk sending a message to students that we don’t trust them to be adults who are learning about life and learning to make their own decisions and — frankly — mistakes.”

    The committee’s suggestion butts heads to the UCSD’s alcohol awareness message, supplied by the Community Collegiate Alcohol Awareness and Prevention program, which is associated with San Diego State University.

    “I still think that as a ‘culture,’ especially on college campuses, we still imply that the only way students will have fun is by supplying alcohol and that is the message we need to get away from,” said Lupe Samaniego-Kraus, a member of the program’s steering committee and UCSD representative.

    However, student experience committeee members found that the majority of the students felt differently about drinking. Previous campus events that served alcohol, such as “Thank God It’s Friday” concerts, fostered a bond between undergraduates, but still sent a positive university message to the student body, Bezzerides said.

    “As an alumna, I have very fond memories of the famed “TG’s” that were held on campus,” Bezzerides said. “Honestly, it was not solely because there was alcohol there. It created a sense of community. It was something to which you looked forward as you slogged through midterms.”

    In addition, the student satisfaction committee suggested that having such events would create a stronger alumni base, as students could recall better college experiences after graduation.

    “If [alcohol] is on campus, it allows a setting for students to be able to do some more social activities on campus rather than off campus, and thus being able to see the university as more than just school, but also as a social setting,” Sixth College committee representative junior Enrique Soto said. “I think it is more convenient to have a beer after class and socialize on campus than driving off campus to a bar.”

    Campus activities can still be memorable without alcohol, said Samaniego-Kraus. A key part of CCAAP’s environmental strategy involves promoting the alcohol-free college activities, movies, concerts and the more than 300 student organizations in which students can get involved.

    “A lot of students say that they drink because there’s nothing else to do,” Samaniego-Kraus said. “It’s our aim to show them that there are other activities and fun things they can do.”

    CCAAP employs several important partnerships, especially with campus law enforcement officials, according to UCSD Police Department Cpl. Doug O’Dell.

    “We look at our role here as a partnership with the organizer to ensure that they have safe events, that patrons have a good time and are safe — and prevent things from going wrong,” O’Dell said. “We don’t look at it as a chance to make arrests for the sake of making arrests.”

    Samaniego-Kraus said that while she would not call alcohol a “major problem” at UCSD, CCAAP is concerned with consequences like alcohol poisoning, sexual assaults and drunk driving. Six cases of alcohol poisoning were documented at last year’s Sun God festival, she said, a relatively low number.

    However, alcohol serves as a major contributor to cases of sexual assault, according to Nancy Wahlig, director of the Student Safety Awareness and Sexual Assault Resource Center.

    “Often alcohol is a factor in sexual assaults here at UCSD and nationwide [in which] either the victim or the assailant has been drinking alcohol,” Wahlig said. “I would estimate that probably 90 percent of the incidents that occur are alcohol-related.”

    Meanwhile, binge drinking has become a noticeable problem at UCSD, according to Samaniego-Kraus. Surveys that gauged alcohol and drug use, from 1,000 randomly selected undergraduate students, conducted during the past two years found that 28 percent admitted to binge drinking, which was defined as four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men in one sitting, Samaniego-Kraus said.

    “One of the things we’ve learned through surveys is that many students admitted to, after drinking, driving or getting into a car with someone who has been drinking,” she said.

    The surveys were administered through the Prevention Research Center at UC Berkeley, which allocated $30,000 to UCSD from its $6.9 million National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism grant.

    To curb drunk driving, the A.S. Council offers a service called A.S. Safe Rides, which gives rides to students who have been drinking or do not have a safe way to get home. After signing a waiver and obtaining a card, students can use Safe Rides up to three times per quarter.

    “I think it is one of our most successful, important services,” Thurgood Marshall College Senior Senator Kate Pillon said. “We are realistic. We know that students are going to drink; what we want to prevent is them from drinking and driving.”

    CCAAP also requires counseling, peer programs and motivational interviewing — which is designed to look at students’ behaviors and illustrate how they conflict with goals — for UCSD students with multiple alcohol violations.

    The program also communicates with students through informational “21st birthday card” pamphlets that include safety and self-control tips, safe-party hosting tips and approximate costs of first-time driving under the influence offenses.

    “Students just love them,” Samaniego-Kraus said. “I get comments like ‘Thanks for caring’ or ‘I feel like UCSD cares.’ The response has definitely been positive.”

    The program also seeks to limit the marketing and promotion of alcohol on campus by neither allowing alcohol advertising nor accepting sponsorship of campus events from alcohol distributors.

    Despite all its efforts, CCAAP is not seeking to prohibit alcohol by any means, but only regulate its use by students in a consciously safe manner, Samaniego-Kraus said.

    “Limiting alcohol distribution does not imply eliminating it,” she said.

    Reinstatement of events such as the TG’s will not result in an alcohol-driven, lawless campus, Bezzerides said.

    “There seems to be some kind of misconception that by allowing alcohol on campus, you are going to have tons of underage students drinking with reckless abandon,” Bezzerides said. “We are hardly talking about providing alcohol to those under 21. … By allowing alcohol on campus for those of drinking age, you are actually creating a safer, more-controlled social environment.”

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